Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday frowned upon the Sangh Parivar's concept of India as a “Hindu” nation, underscoring that this militated against what Mahatma Gandhi stood for.
The veteran socialist leader, who ended his long alliance with the BJP last year, was responding to queries from journalists about the “Hindu rashtra” clamour, which was openly endorsed earlier this week by his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath. “We must not listen to anything that goes against what Bapu stood for. In this country, people of all religions live together. Bapu stood for unity and this was the reason for his assassination”, said Kumar, who draws inspiration from the Mahatma's views in formulating his ideas of governance.
The chief minister also warned that any deviation from Gandhi's insistence on secularism could lead to perversions (jo isse kuchh alag karna chahta hai, vo ulta pulta karna chahta hai). A product of the Bihar movement of 1974, Kumar had aligned with the BJP way back in the 1990s and held important portfolios in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
The longest serving CM assumed power in Bihar in 2005 and his rule has been marked by a refusal to give in to the BJP's “Hindutva” plank despite alliance. The hardline “Hindutva” image of his then Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi had caused him to have reservations about the BJP leader campaigning for elections in Bihar and break the alliance when it became evident that the saffron party wanted to make the charismatic leader its Prime Ministerial candidate.
Kumar realigned with the BJP in 2017, only to call off the alliance five years later, but maintained a distinct ideological position on key issues like Ayodhya, Article 370, triple talaq and NRC. The chief minister spoke to journalists on the sidelines of a function where his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, of current ally RJD, was also present.
He reacted dismissively to the allegations of RJD's MLA and former minister Sudhaker Singh that the government was “anti-farmer”. “These people have no idea how much has been done by us for farmers and how much progress has been made in agriculture sector”, said Kumar, refusing to give any importance to the recalcitrance of Singh, who was first made to resign as agriculture minister and thereafter served with a show cause by his party for frequent vituperations against the government.